The 2012-13 college hockey regular season is racing towards its exciting conclusion, and the #4 Boston College Eagles still find themselves on the top of the heap. There are still many questions to be decided, including (1) if BC will add another trophy to their collection before the start of the 2013 Hockey East Tournament, (2) who BC’s quarterfinal opponent will be, and (3) which two unlucky teams will be left behind.
As of Thursday morning, these are the men’s standings in Hockey East:
New Hampshire lost on Wednesday night to Providence; the Wildcats had an opportunity to leap over Boston College for first place in Hockey East (which is typically the highlight of any decent UNH season), but they suffered a critical loss. It was important for several reasons: BC retained the top spot in the conference just as they’re starting to heat up again, the Eagles now have a game in hand over the Wildcats in addition to their one-point lead, and now Providence slides up into the conversation, though BC has an extra game to play.
If the Hockey East Tournament began today, Boston College’s best-of-three quarterfinal would be against the Vermont Catamounts. The Eagles end the regular season with a two-game road series in Burlington, so it is conceivable that BC could play four or even as many as five consecutive games against Vermont in March. In the one previous meeting they’ve had just two weeks ago, BC came away with a 4-1 win at Conte Forum.
Vermont’s spot in the Hockey East Tournament is not assured. With still more than a handful of games to go, the Catamounts lead Maine by a single point, while Northeastern lags three behind. It is also possible that a team like UMass could slide into a quarterfinal matchup with BC, which would be a rematch of last season’s sweep. Because Vermont plays the Eagles twice to end the season, they might need those games to get into the tournament at all, and BC might not be so willing to fork over the four points.
BC’s top spot isn’t secure, either. The thing about having the Merrimack Warriors right on their tail is that the Eagles get to face them twice in their eight remaining games. Both of those games are in North Andover, both are in February, and both will have a lot to say about who goes into the Hockey East Tournament as the #1 seed. So too could the home-and-home games against Providence and the lone remaining game against New Hampshire at Conte Forum on February 17.
One could say at this point that Boston College controls its own destiny as March approaches. If they win their games — and we all know it’s possible if last year is any indication — then they’ll be the #1 seed and that will be that. If they don’t, there are several teams that could push them into a less-favorable quarterfinal matchup. At this time of year, a top-five team like BC is playing for conference tournament seeding and national tournament seeding, in both cases to try to give themselves the most reasonable path possible to their goals of more trophies. In that respect, the regular season does matter, chasing the top spot in Hockey East definitely matters, and BC has more than a good chance of securing themselves, but they’re far from running away with it.